One of our favourite projects this Georgie Awards season was a house that features a smooth architectural concrete driveway with a lightly swirly finish that looks absolutely fabulous when addition to some lovely landscape lighting. When I edited the image, I noticed something a bit 'off' in the reflection but couldn't put my finger on what or why...and nobody else noticed anything either. I chalked it up to too many long days on location and too little sleep.

Mission driveway pre-edit.jpg

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we get a message (on Friday the 13th, no less) forwarded from the client's graphic designer. "I was placing one your images and I noticed what looks like a ghosted image of a dog, or racoon, in the foreground.". Well, now that you've pointed it out...I can't unsee it! Let's zoom in to make it clearer. It sure looks like there's a ghost of a dog emerging from the reflection!

Doggie Pareidolia


So, I fired up Capture One and went back to the original image files. It sometimes happens that pets, people, or other things do run through images unintentionally, particularly if we're doing long exposures (and this was about a 20 second exposure), but this wasn't what's going on here. This image is stitched from two perspectives to get a wider angle, and the reflection pattern was present in every version of the image.

What's going on, then? Hallowe'en is coming up: did we catch the ghost of an old Mission dog that once roamed the site long ago? Unless our client reports that their client hears strange howling noises in the middle of the night: this is an instance of pareidolia. Say it with me, so you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party: pair-eye-DOH-le-a.

Pareidolia, according to Merriam-Webster, is the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. We've all experienced it: the Man in the Moon, the Face on Mars, certain rock formations, even...Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun, and Snack Food Jesus. In this case, the "doggie" is due to the reflection of the landscape and window lighting on the wet concrete. Speaking of cool words, those of you who do film lighting will observe that the front foliage is behaving as a cuculoris and hard-shaping the light in the reflection, creating the effect.

Blurring out the reflection in Photoshop made short work of it:

goldedge-whidden59257 1.jpg


And that, as they say, is a dog gone bit of post!